Making Sense of Travel Dollars: From Discounted Business Class Flights to Smart Credit Cards

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An on-budget trip to Asia or Europe begins with finding cheap airfare in comfortable, premium cabins. It also includes understanding how current international financial events affect exchange rates, knowing how to cheaply convert currency, preparing for international credit card transactions and finding apps to help track expenses.

No one wants to spend more than necessary on a trip abroad, even if they’re traveling in the lap of luxury aboard first class. Travelers spend countless hours searching for discount first class flights to Singapore, London and other exciting destinations, but they often don’t realize that they should spend an equal amount of time planning ways to make the most of their money while traveling.

Dollars, Euros and Pounds, Oh My!
Recent financial troubles in Greece, Spain, Portugal, Latvia and Ireland can make it difficult to know how to handle money while in Europe. Add in the complication of knowing which European countries have retained their own currencies, and you have even more confusion. The temptation for many U.S. travelers will be to simply use dollars to avoid the hassle and fees of converting money to euros and pounds, but that's a money-losing strategy. Where possible, travelers should convert cash to local currency at postal banks where exchange fees are less onerous. 

Before the trip, travelers should download an easy-to-use currency conversion app on their smart phones. Even though travelers aren’t paying in dollars, it’s important to know the cost of purchases, hotel stays, restaurant bills and train tickets. The conversion apps give travelers an easy way to understand real costs so they can make smart purchase decisions. Maps and international flight booking apps are also helpful so travelers can navigate their destinations or buy last minute business class flights for fun side trips.

Give Yourself Some Credit
Using credit cards in foreign countries may be easiest, but it’s important to check ahead of time what types of credit cards are accepted in a particular country. In some Asian countries, for instance, credit cards may be difficult to use so cash is the way to go.

Most European countries use credit cards that require PIN input along with the card. To avoid complications, travelers should call their credit card companies and request actual chip-and-pin cards that meet the European standard. 

When setting up the chip-and-pin card or when making purchases with credit cards, travelers may be asked whether they want to be charged in dollars or euros. It’s nearly always best to ask the company to charge the purchase in the local European currency. There’s often a fee or mark-up for the store to convert the charges to U.S. dollars, and that’s just wasted money for travelers who want to control their costs.

With a little research and planning, it’s relatively easy for travelers to make the most of their travel budgets. Whether they’re whisking a partner away for a special holiday on cheap first class seats to Jakarta or simply traveling for business, there’s always savings to be found.